The Chronicles of Downing Street

The British political debate on the EU Referendum has been relatively calm, as the attention this week in Great Britain has shifted to “Super Thursday” local elections. Yet, the downward trend in the British economy generated by the uncertainty about the post-Referendum scenario seems to persist as 23 June approaches: an illustration is given by the substantial decrease in consumer confidence, that has reached the lowest level in more than a year. Nonetheless, the British business sector is not unanimous in stigmatizing Brexit: more than 100 business figures have signed a declaration, arguing that leaving the EU would allow the City to consolidate its position as the world’s largest financial center. In the meantime, the British government has decided to postpone the sales process of Tata Steel, that is now going to take place after the Referendum: this process is indeed expected to generate considerable job losses and is claimed by pro-Brexit campaigners to have been ultimately caused by EU regulation. Also, an unexpected alliance has emerged across the Labour Party – and notably, former Labour leader Ed Miliband – Conservative Party, Liberal Democrats and Green Party, in raising the voice to say that the European Union is central to help Britain to battle climate change and to preserve British environmental policy. As well, it may be the case that the election for the new mayor of London of 5 May will indirectly influence the EU Referendum, if Labour candidate with Pakistani origins Sadiq Khan succeeds in securing a victory against the more traditional Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith.

Fear and Loathing in Brussels

British people living outside of the UK, and especially those in other EU countries, have received bad news this week. Indeed, on the one hand, judges have confirmed that British expats living abroad for 15 year or more won’t have the right to vote for the EU Referendum. On the other hand, as pointed out by a report of the House of Lords EU Committee, further concerns arise for the nearly 2 millions Britons living in the European continent concerning the questions of right to reside, as well as healthcare arrangements: they face the risk of living in a legal limbo for some two years if Brexit takes place. Furthermore, the European energy sectors is likely to be subject to major repercussions from Brexit: current efforts are taking place to link the UK’s electricity grid with major European power networks and it appears that Brexit will jeopardize these coordinated interventions at the international level. Also, Politico points out that the hopes of many anti-EU denizens of the City to turn post-Brexit London in a Hong-Kong-like economic space with free trade, “light touch” regulation and low taxes are quite groundless: they indeed will be frustrated by a web of international rules, as well as by the EU’s unwillingness to let the UK enjoy all the benefits of the Single Market.

Voices from the Continent

An interesting editorial by Par Christian Lequesne on Le Monde considers the likely impact that a Brexit would have on the European continent and underscores that the Brexit debate should push France and Germany to actively fight the anti-European populism that is rising in every member state by pursuing a new path for European integration. Gloomier is the picture envisaged by Italian Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan on Il Sole 24 Ore: he warns that Brexit would not just have an impeding effect on European integration, but, more grievously, would provide the first concrete example that disintegration is feasible, causing increasingly disruptive effects. Also, former Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said that it’s paradoxical that some Conservatives want to leave the European Single Market, which he defines “a British construction under Margaret Thatcher”. Finally, it is worth noticing how Brexit has not just fostered claims for greater independence at the regional level, but has also made these claims more international in nature: Catalonia president Carles Puigdemont has visited Flanders and has met its Minister-President Geert Burgeois, in order to discuss the strategy of their regions to acquire more independence in a European context.

Facts and Figures

Should the UK remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

Remain 46%
Leave 43%
Undecided 10%

Source: Financial Times

Photo Credit CC: Simon Jones

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